Sean Porter Fitness/Health
In this section, we have health and fitness tips for our members, from Sean Porter
I am delighted to announce that ‘Sean Porter Health & Fitness’ will now be working as a partner with the PDPA to provide all of its members with Nutritional and Exercise guidance on a regular and frequent basis. The information will be directly related to the life of a professional Darts player, giving you the details on how to adapt these around a sportspersons schedule – tournaments, travelling and holidays in between.
I truly believe that maintaining a standard of health and fitness is the key factor for anyone wishing to achieve all that is possible in their profession – good quality nutrition, food choices and exercise habits will all be available on the PDPA website. As an extra benefit and added service, any member looking to gain further support will be welcome to contact myself for one-to-one coaching and individual guidance.
1-Tips for Tournament Health
I truly believe that most people, including professional and semi-professional Darts players, have some knowledge of certain foods and drinks that have been labeled ‘beneficial’ or ‘detrimental’ to health. However, an area that may not be as clear to everyone is Portion Size.
In many circumstances, the foods we are consuming may be correct for us as individuals, but it is the amount at one time that could be having a negative effect.
As an indictor, although by no means can this be a ‘one size fits all’ approach to nutrition, due to multiple factors and individuality, the total number of calories consumed per day should be around 2500 for males and 2000 for females.
As sportspeople, your daily requirements of nutrients, both in terms of quality and quantity are greater to that of a normal person who may not be as physically or mentally active on a daily basis. This however, must still be managed to ensure ‘over-consumption’ of the wrong foods at the wrong time of day does not occur.
To give you an idea of portion size:
- Imagine the size of a deck of playing cards for meats
- The size of a small matchbox for cheeses
- 1 piece of fruit or a handful of berries
- A small cup full of carbohydrate foods such as rice and pasta and cereals
- A handful of vegetables
- A teaspoon of cooking oils (olive, coconut, vegetable)
2-Tips for Tournament Health
When you find yourself at a tournament venue all day and sometimes for multiple days at a time, it is inevitable that as part of your nutrition you are going to find yourself potentially craving and needing to snack!
There are of course a number of choices at this stage but unquestionably there is one that contains more nutrients and therefore more benefits to your health than any other – Fruit. It is no secret that consuming the correct quality and quantity of fruit comes with many positives – let me break it down for you:
- A valuable source of simple carbohydrates = fuel for your body.
- A wide variety of micronutrients – vitamins and minerals. These are essential for health and wellbeing.
- Reduce the risk of illness and disease such as high blood pressure and some cancers.
- High in fibre keeping your digestive system functioning properly.
- High in antioxidants protecting you from the damaging (rust) effects of oxygen in the body.
- Cheap and convenient!
Most of you will hopefully have your ‘go to’ fruits – the ones you consume most often, but I would challenge everyone to broaden your tastes and try something different to ensure you get enough and the correct variety of nutrients:
There are various options and combinations for any given day. In my opinion, especially for those as physically and mentally active as a Darts player, 3-5 portions or fruit per day would be a good consistent place to be. The mistake I would encourage you to avoid is Consuming too much at one time!
If you refer to my ‘portion size’ article, you will see that one large piece of fruit (banana, apple, pear) or a handful of smaller fruits (berries of any kind, cherries, pomegranate) would equate to a portion. My advice would be no more than two portions at once.
I have mentioned previously that fruit is naturally low in calories but the accumulative effect of perhaps adding 3,4,5 different fruits into a ‘Healthy Fruit Smoothie’ for example can lead to weight gain as well as having detrimental results on health, energy levels and concentration. Spread out all of your fruits over the course of the day to achieve all of the benefits and reduce any of the negative effects.
Unbelievably in my career within the Health and Fitness Industry, I have heard from some sources that apparently fruit is now bad for you because of the sugar content. I only bring up this subject to encourage anyone that has heard the same – PLEASE IGNORE THIS COMMENT!
Unfortunately in today’s society we all now either know someone or would even class yourself as being in the ‘overweight’ category. I am firmly of the opinion that no one is overweight because they eat too much fruit.
Fruit of the right variety and quality is one of the most nutritious foods you will consume and cutting this out because it contains sugar (a natural substance of course) will be far more damaging to your health.
In summary when you find yourself needing a snack during your long and exhaustive competitions then fruit should be at the top of your list. Different colours and different textures will make for optimal function and performance on stage!
3-Tips for Tournament Health
Balance Your Nutrients
Try to have a balanced diet is a phrase that is used consistently when it comes to nutritional advice but for any of you that are not 100% sure exactly what this means, let me break it down and make it as simple as possible to understand.
Essentially we can separate nutrition into a number of main categories:
- Macronutrients (carbohydrates, fibre, fats, protein)
- Micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc.)
Having a balanced diet involves taking all of the food and drink you have consumed over a 24hour period and ensuring sufficient quantities of each of the above has been attained. Any imbalance created will result in deficiencies of some of the key nutrients required and ultimately can lead to illness, disease and poor performance.
- Macronutrient is the title given to the foods we should be having most of every day.
- Micronutrients are just as important but needed in much smaller amounts to maintain health and optimal function.
- Water itself makes up almost two thirds of the human body. Please refer to my article on ‘Hydration’ to learn more of its importance!
Typically there are a few key areas to consider that could be responsible for us NOT having the variety of nutrients needed:
- An over consumption of carbohydrates (breads, fizzy drinks, confectionary)
- Not enough fruit and vegetables in the daily diet
- A lack of quality protein in each meal (meat, poultry, fish, eggs)
- Having long periods in each day where no food is consumed
- Allowing the body to become dehydrated
- An over-consumption of low quality processed foods
To give you an idea (not a ‘one size fits all’ approach) of what your day should look like please see below the UK Eatwell Plate – a representation if you take all of your food in one day and see it on a plate:
Now this is only a guideline but it clearly demonstrates that your day should be based around fruit, vegetables and starchy carbohydrates with quality meats, fish and dairy products to be included. On top of this there is one key piece of information that is not included here – YOU MUST HAVE A PHYSICALLY ACTIVE LIFESTYLE allowing correct nutrition to work alongside it and give you everything you need to be on top of your game!
When spending the day away from home travelling to different venues, my advice would be to try and make yourself as aware as possible of what is going on your plate every time you eat and drink. Give the body as much as it needs and you will reap the awards in life and in competition.
As I have mentioned in a previous article (Balancing your Nutrients), there are certain food groups that we should be consuming most of every day. These are referred to as your Macronutrients and consist of Protein, Carbohydrates and Fat.
In this article I would like to provide more detail and focus on one of these – Protein. In order to gain a better understanding of why this nutrient should be consumed in sufficient quantities, here are the key functions of protein in the diet:
- Vital for growth and repair of human tissue
- Strengthening of the immune system to fight infection and disease
- Used to form ligaments, tendons and muscle tissue
- Used to transport oxygen and carbon dioxide around the body
- Aids in the production of hormones
- A ‘back-up’ fuel source especially during periods of fasting
Protein is made up of a series of molecules called Amino Acids. Essentially we should look at these as being the ‘building blocks’ of life. All of the cells of the human body contain protein, especially those of muscle tissue. A deficiency of protein can impair important functions and cause a loss of muscle mass, lowering your metabolism and encouraging a greater increase in fat mass!
One of the biggest advantages of ‘high-protein’ diets is their ability to manage hunger. Protein gives us the feeling of being satiated (full up) making it far less likely that you will over consume and take on board excessive calories that are not required at any given time.
Sources of protein include:
- Meats – beef, pork, lamb, ham
- Poultry – chicken, turkey
- Fish – salmon, mackerel, prawns, tuna, scallops
- Dairy – eggs (whites), milk, cheese, yoghurt (natural, organic)
- Non Animal – quinoa, buckwheat, soy foods
I would recommend that depending on your current size, muscle mass and physical activity levels, protein should be accountable for 20-35% of your total daily calorie intake. Men will need slightly more than females due to the natural differences in size and muscle mass.
The following table will give you a clear indication of roughly how much we should be consuming:
|Activity Type||Grams of Protein per KG of Bodyweight|
|Recreational Adult Exerciser||0.8 – 1.5g/kg|
|Adult Endurance Athlete||1.2 – 1.6g/kg|
|Growing Teenage Athlete||1.5 – 2.0g/kg|
|Adult Building Muscle Mass||1.5 – 1.7g/kg|
|Estimated Upper Limits||2.0g/kg|
As with pretty much everything in nutrition, this table should be viewed as an indicator towards how much protein should be included in your diet. Although it is an extremely beneficial nutrient and most us do not get anywhere near the right amount (of quality), please do not be fooled into thinking you can eat as much as you want – too much protein will cause problems. The dominant result being an increase in body fat!
My tips on how to ensure protein remains a stable part of your nutrition include:
- Focus on including a source of protein in every meal of the day (breakfast, lunch, dinner).
- When buying meat or fish products look for ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ produce, as hopefully the quality remains high.
- Fruit and Veg contain amino acids – keep a variety of these in the diet and you can increase protein intake.
Protein is a key component of the human body. Everything from your muscles, skin, bones, hormones and vital organs are party comprised of this nutrient. It is a vital component of all of our cells – maintaining good cellular health means maintaining overall health, giving you the platform to perform better on stage and achieve your best possible outcome!
Having already provided a focus on protein, I would now like to provide more detail on the second macronutrient – Carbohydrates. Along with protein and fats, carbohydrates are one of the groups of nutrients that we should be consuming most of every day. In simple terms there is one key reason why carbohydrates should be included in your diet in sufficient amounts every single day:
- Your body’s preferred and most valuable source of fuel and energy!
Without carbohydrates your body is now being starved of the nutrient it can digest and utilise easiest, providing you with energy and higher levels of concentration. Imagine owing a car and refusing to provide it with petrol or diesel? Any structure will perform at its most optimal when it is provided with exactly what it requires.
Three sub groups to be aware of are:
- Sugar – Simple Carbohydrates
- Starch – Complex Carbohydrates
- Fibre – No-starch Carbohydrates
Both sugars and starches can be digested and absorbed into our system to be used as fuel. The difference between the two is that sugars will provide a relatively quick ‘burst’ of energy but only lasting a short period of time. Starches provide a much more sustained and longer lasting supply of fuel.
Fibre belongs to the family of carbohydrates but differs from that of sugar and starch. Our bodies do not have the tools to break down, digest and absorb fibre, effectively meaning we cannot burn the calories it provides – it is not a source of energy and fuel. Instead, we use fibre (in the correct quality and quantity) to keep our digestive system working efficiently.
As with most things in nutrition there are multiple sources of everything mentioned above – some of course are considerably ‘healthier’ options than others. My table below will highlight some of the better foods and drinks to consider when making your choice:
|Fruit Juice (one source)||Wholegrain Rice||Wholegrain Products|
|Honey||Sweet Potato||Jacket Potato|
|Full Fat Milk||Lentils||Vegetables|
This is not by any means a ‘complete’ list of foods containing carbohydrates. There are plenty of other quality nutritious foods that can found in each category.
The following are also carbohydrate based:
- Full Fat Fizzy Drinks
- Chocolate and Sweets
- Cakes and Pastries
- Processed Ready Meals
- White Bread, Pasta, Rice
- Chips and Pizza
Although containing many of the same nutrients (sugar and starch), these foods would be thought of as our ‘bad alternatives’ due to an excessive amount of sugar and other ingredients such as additives and high levels of low quality fat.
I do no think it is necessary to completely remove these from the diet altogether, as a little bit of what you like can only be of benefit. Building awareness and an understanding of the ‘better choices’ available to us is what will count in the long term!
Going right back to the beginning of this article, we know that carbohydrates are primarily used as a fuel source. We must then consider one key factor – exercise and physical activity. The amount of ‘carbs’ we need on a daily basis comes down to how active we are. The greater levels of activity or exercise involved in your day the more calories your body needs to refuel. More exercise = more carbohydrates needed!
As a population we massively over consume this nutrient alongside living a sedentary lifestyle (not being physically active). This plays a fundamental role in the rise of obesity and medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
Of all the food groups that exist, the one that probably causes the greatest amount of confusion is the macronutrient I would now like to provide more detail on – Fat.
Firstly, there is a fundamental piece of information that everyone should be made aware of – Fat is extremely good for you! We associate the nutrient of fat with obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other medical conditions but it is simply not true. Eaten in the right amounts and from good quality sources, fat plays a hugely positive role in the health and wellbeing of the human body.
It can sometimes be a difficult task to convince people that an increase in the levels of fat in your diet can be beneficial. Let’s have a look at some of the key functions:
- A valuable source of fuel and energy
- Insulation (Body Fat keeps you warm)
- Protection of your internal organs
- Strengthens and enhances your immune system
- Allows you to absorb and utilise important vitamins (A, D, E, K)
- Forms a large part of your nervous system (Brain, Spinal Cord)
When we adopt a ‘low fat’ diet, I certainly agree this can help us lose weight but we must be aware of the potential negative effects of missing out on everything mentioned above. As with most things in nutrition, there are not necessarily ‘bad foods’, but rather an over-consumption of some foods and an under-consumption of others.
There are three sub-groups of naturally occurring fats that all provide the body with essential nutrients required on a daily basis:
- Saturated Fat
- Monounsaturated Fat
- Polyunsaturated Fat
|Meat (Beef, Pork, Lamb)||Olives||Oily Fish|
|Poultry (Chicken, Duck)||Olive Oil||Eggs|
|Eggs (Yolks)||Avocado||Cod Liver Oil|
|Dairy (Milk, Butter)||Nuts||Sunflower Oil|
|Coconut Oil||Seeds||Pumpkin Seeds|
|Palm Oil||Beef Dripping||Sesame Seeds|
Saturated Fat has a bad reputation in the food industry but in the correct amounts it is far less harmful than most people are lead to believe. It plays fundamental roles in the body such as enhancement of the immune system and protection against the damaging effects of alcohol.
Both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats eaten in the right quantities from as good a source as possible have been proven to lower cholesterol and reduce an individuals risk of Coronary Heart Disease!
Interestingly however, our bodies are able to synthesize (create) enough monounsaturated fat on its own to keep us healthy as long as we ensure sufficient amounts of saturated fats are included in the diet. This of course is yet another reason why we should not cut out saturated fat despite what we hear in the media.
The true reason why fat has developed such a bad reputation has very little to do with the ‘natural’ foods already mentioned in this article. The true culprit increasing the risk of medical conditions and obesity is another variation of this nutrient known as Trans Fat.
Trans Fats are a ‘man-made’ fat included in a large majority of the processed foods we consume every day and is far more dangerous to our health than its alternatives we have already spoken about. Please be aware that ‘low fat’ products may only be referring to one type of fat. The amount of trans fat contained can still be extremely high in many ‘health’ foods.
Overall, fat as it occurs in nature is very beneficial to our health, our image and our performance. As a rough estimate, 25-35% of your calories should come from fat. My advice is to look for the most natural source to ensure the highest quality.
Cardiovascular Training by definition is a form of exercise designed to specifically target and improve the health and efficiency of the heart and lungs. Anything that raises our breathing rate or heart rate to a certain level and is sustained for a specific period of time can be classed as Cardiovascular Exercise.
The following table provides an indication of what is required in terms of variables to focus on either your health or fitness levels:
|Intensity (% of Max HR)*||Up to 60% MHR*||Between 60 – 90% MHR*|
|Frequency||5+ Days per Week||Min 3 Days per Week|
|Duration||30mins (accumulated)||Min 20mins|
|Method of Activity||Any activity involving large rhythmical movements.|
*MHR = Maximum Heart Rate
When it comes to Percentages of MHR as mentioned above, here is a rough estimate of what I mean and an idea for you of how hard you should be working:
- Up to 60% MHR – imagine a speed or intensity you could comfortably sustain for an extended period of time (30mins+). At the end of a steady ‘warm-up’ I would be looking at a heart rate of around 60%.
- 60 – 75% MHR – this is roughly an intensity for a 20-30 minute cardiovascular training session. In you own head I would suggest an effort level of around 7 out of 10 would be very reasonable.
- 75 – 90% MHR – the intensity becomes a lot higher at this point. This would be a speed that you would consider too fast to sustain for 20 minutes. A short period of work followed by a short recovery would be suggested here.
Nothing mentioned in the above points is scientifically measured of course. A large part of the intensity of work is still down to your own interpretation. However, using the guidelines provided would take you close to where you want to be.
Regarding duration, government information would show that health could be maintained or improved slightly if we include 30mins of physical activity into our daily routine. This can be accumulated and does not need to be finished all at once (two 15mins would suffice). To improve your CV fitness levels, a minimum of 20mins at a slight higher intensity is recommended.
Please see below examples of what could be used and considered as cardiovascular exercise both within and outside of a gym environment:
|Gym Environment||Outside Environment|
|Cross-Trainer||Playing Sport (Raised Heart Rate)|
|Fitness Classes (CV Targeted)|
Apart from the benefits to both your cardiovascular fitness and overall health, here are some other reasons why I personally would always recommend that CV exercise should be part of everyone’s life no matter their goal or motivation:
- Decrease body fat
- Decrease total cholesterol levels
- Strengthen your immune system
- Strengthen your skeletal system
- Increase psychological wellbeing
In simple terms, cardiovascular training should be viewed like any other form of exercise or activity. Performed in the correct way for the correct person can only bring about positive results to your image, health, fitness and performance. Psychologically, CV Exercise can bring about dramatic improvements in your mental state, focus and attitude. It is no surprise that people who are regularly physically active tend to have a positive outlook on most aspects of life. This can unquestionably be the added ingredient to your preparation for competition.
Darts is a sport that does not require a great degree of CV fitness on a day-to-day basis, but that does not take anything away from the importance of including it as part of your exercise routine.
Whether it comes to nutrition or any form of training, giving the body exactly what it needs will inevitably result in reaping the rewards on stage!